Marjan Haydaree is 18 years old and lives in San Francisco, CA
I started playing soccer when I was 11 years old. My older sister played soccer since she was 5 so I always went to her games. Growing up, I was always really athletic but just did gymnastics. I just loved playing basketball, soccer and baseball at school. I was really hyper, but not on any competitive teams.
I started playing with a local Afghan team in Concord called Aria Club. They didn’t have an age group that matched me, so I started playing with a U-16 team when I was 10 or 11. Therefore, I was always playing with older girls. We would scrimmage with the boys team and that’s how I started playing soccer. We would play tournaments against different teams from California. It was all local Afghan teams but the ages ranged from U-5 to over 35 men.
We played in local tournaments and each time it was more competitive because our team worked hard, improved and we were eventually able to win tournaments.
2009 was when the AFFWNT coach first came to California. He chose 5 or 6 players to join the team. My sister and I were two of them. I was too young, only 11 so I couldn’t go to the SAFF games, but my sister could because she was 16. I was pretty heartbroken, but I was happy my sister could go and represent us at the games.
In 2011, I was 13 and they asked me to go to Qatar for a friendly match. That was the first time I got to meet all the girls. It was a little hard for me. My farsi isn’t that good, so it was hard for me to communicate but it was a good experience seeing a new culture, environment and learning from their stories. It was totally new for me.
We won that game in Qatar 2-0 and I scored. It was a really great feeling, scoring for my national team.
I went with the AFFWNT again for the second SAFF games in Sri Lanka in 2012 and we ended up in the semifinals but lost. I scored 2 goals that tournament, against Pakistan and Nepal.
I went for another tournament, the SAFF Championships in Pakistan and that was in 2014. I got to meet more players from Europe and got to meet new girls from Afghanistan and we got to practice a couple times. It’s pretty hard to do well because we’re all so spread out and come together and it’s hard to play as a team without a lot of practice time. I scored one goal against Bangladesh in that tournament.
From my last trip, we went to Japan for a friendly peace match with one of the local Japanese teams. This was by far my favourite trip. Japan showed us about Hiroshima and were trying to demonstrate how they rebuilt. They showed us that it is possible to rebuild from what has happened in Afghanistan. We got to go to high schools and middle schools and we went to both professional soccer and baseball games.
I used to play for La Morinda, a club team in the Bay Area, for 3 to 4 years and also played on my high school Varsity team for all 4 years. This year I tore my ACL, so it’s been about 5 months since my surgery. That was really hard for me. My sister had torn her ACL before so I knew what I had to go through. It was tough and emotional, but as time has passed I knew that I’d be okay.
For now, I’ve been doing a lot of rehab and trying to get back into shape. I will also be training for Long Beach State University. Unfortunately, I can’t play at the training camp but I am excited to be there participating with the team.